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Your contract with a landlord will probably be what is called an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. They were introduced with the Housing Act 1988 and revised eight years later.

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  • An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) usually lasts for six months but it can be longer. ASTs provide protection to tenants against eviction, unless the tenant breaches their responsibilities under the contract. A tenant may still be evicted if, for example, they fail to pay their rent. However, due legal process must be followed.
     
    What is the landlord responsible for?
     
    Getting landlords to fulfil their responsibilities in maintaining a rented property can be difficult. Many landlords are very good – but some are not.
     
    One of the difficulties can be landlords forgetting what repairs are needed, pretending they were unaware of problems, or disputing when they were told. For these reasons it is best to formally notify the landlord of problems. This can be done by email, or by letter, with a copy retained for the tenant's own records
     
    Under the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1985, the landlord has very clear obligations in maintaining properties that are let. But there is no obligation on the landlord to make improvements to the standard of a property above that which applied when the tenant moved in – except where this was explicitly specified in the agreement, or where the landlord is otherwise in breach of their legal obligations.
     
    Repairs
     
    Unless the tenancy has a fixed term of more than seven years, the landlord is responsible for repairs to:
    • The structure and exterior of the property
    • Baths, sinks, basins and other sanitary installations
    • Heating and hot water installations
    • If you are renting a flat or maisonette, other parts of the building or installations in it which he or she owns or controls and whose disrepair would affect you

    Safety of gas and electrical appliances

    The landlord is required to ensure that all gas appliances are maintained in good order and that an annual safety check is carried out by a recognised engineer – that is, an engineer who is approved under Regulation 3 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

    The landlord must keep a record of the safety checks and issue it to you within 28 days of each annual check. He or she is not responsible for maintaining gas appliances which you are entitled to take with you at the end of the letting.

    The landlord should ensure that the electrical system and any electrical appliances that he or she supplies such as cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines and immersion heaters are safe to use.

    Fire safety of furniture and furnishings

    The landlord must ensure that any furniture and furnishings he or she supplies meet the fire resistance requirements in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, unless he or she is letting on a temporary basis whilst, for example, working away from home.

    Note: The landlord does not have an obligation to put right problems caused by tenants wrongly using equipment, acting negligently, or vandalising equipment. Tenants have a duty of care to the property they live in and items within the home that are supplied by the landlord.

    The landlord only has a responsibility to repair or replace items where the tenant has properly advised the landlord of the problem.

    What is the tenant responsible for?

    Tenants have responsibilities, too. You must:

    • Bills: Pay the rent and utility bills, avoiding being cut off from water, gas, electricity and phone. Council tax may also be payable.
    • Cleanliness: Keep the place reasonable clean and tidy, including the toilets.
    • Rubbish: Dispose of rubbish properly and in keeping with the requirements of the local council These may require you to carefully sort your waste for recycling and to put the right items in the right place in the rubbish bin. It may be a local offence to put your bin out on the wrong day, or not to bring it the same day it has been emptied. Failure to do this can also make you very unpopular with some neighbours.
    • Noise: Making an excessive noise will also upset the neighbours and is probably in breach of the tenancy agreement. It may also attract the police's attention.

    There are also obligations on the tenant which may be specified in the tenancy agreement. These might include ensuring that the property is regularly aired to prevent damaging condensation building up. Condensation and the cause of dampness within a property can be a point of conflict and mutual blame between tenant and landlord.

    Repossession

    At the end of the period covered by the tenancy agreement, the landlord is entitled to repossess the property, providing they give two months' notice of ending the tenancy. The contract can be renewed by mutual agreement at the end of the term of the contract.

    If no agreement is entered into it is assumed that the contract has been renewed on existing terms. It will be subject to either party giving notice, as specified in the agreement – which will often require one or two months written warning.

    Note: If the landlord fails to pay their mortgage, the lender may take possession of the home. The mortgage lender may then choose to evict tenants immediately. The law on this is currently being revised to increase tenants' protection.

    Where a tenant believes they are being charged an excessive rent, they can refer the rent – in the first six months of the tenancy – to a Rent Assessment Committee (in England and Wales only).

    Lodgers

    If the tenant is letting from a live-in landlord, the agreement will not be an AST – it will be a 'Non-Excluded Tenancy or Licence'. If the tenant lives in the same property as the landlord, but in a separate unit of accommodation, the contract is known as an 'Excluded Tenancy or Licence'.

    Scotland

    The law on tenancies and tenants' rights is different in Scotland.

    Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advise from a qualified professional.

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